The “Mexicans”

I always thought it was natural for Singapore to approach Israel for help in setting up our army after we were thrust into independence, because of the geographical and political similarities between Israel and us.

What I didn’t know was that as far back as 1962, Mordecai Kidron, Israel’s ambassador in Bangkok, wrote to Lee Kuan Yew about the setting up of an Israeli consulate in Singapore. Kidron assured LKY that Tunku Abdul Rahman had agreed.

LKY’s initial reply was that if Tunku had indeed agreed, then there should be no issues setting it up after Malaysia was formed.

As LKY expected, Tunku didn’t agree to this after Malaysia was formed.

When Singapore was expelled from Malaysia, Goh Keng Swee contacted Kidron for help in setting up an army and Kidron flew in from Bangkok a few days after 9 Aug 1965.

LKY listened to Kidron’s proposal on military training but didn’t accept immediately due to the political and religious sensitivities it would cause.
LKY then wrote to Lal Bahadur Shastri, India’s then prime minister and Nasser, Egypt’s then president seeking a naval advisor and a military advisor respectively.

Both extended best wishes to Singapore as a newly founded country but ignored the request for help. I guess no one wanted to bet on this horse.

Singapore thus proceeded with the Israelis but in order not to offend any Muslim sentiments, Singapore called the Israelis, “Mexicans”. In LKY’s words, “they looked swarthy enough”. ROFL

Israel continued to press Singapore to allow it to set up an embassy in Singapore but Singapore rejected for fear of angering the Malay Muslims in Singapore and Malaysia. There were concerns that Israel would withdraw their assistance but Tel Aviv sent a message stating that they understood Singapore’s position and it was not till 1969 that the Israeli embassy was allowed to be set up in Singapore.

A friend in need is a friend indeed!

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April 2015